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New Year thoughts

I am putting off writing my next book review post until I have gathered my thoughts about how I intend to spend my time in 2021. So I am procrastinating already!

Many bloggers are looking back over the past year and forward to the next. It can be a useful exercise. On the More than Writers blog, to which I have been a regular contributor for a few years, there was a post about #myoneword.

I chose a word for 2016 and another for 2017. Since then I have not picked a word, but have aimed to use my time productively. (Is spending time on social media productive?)

This year I have been wondering about picking a word again. Listen was a contender. It occurs in the Bible hundreds of times, a good example being in Proverbs 1:5

I prefer Focus, which could include attentive listening and an element of mindfulness. I tend to be thinking about other things, when I am doing routine tasks. It is not particularly healthy. Sometimes it leads to not remembering what I have done or not done! I also have a bad habit of reading, writing or doing puzzles while the news is on the radio. I can knit (easy things) or colour pictures from a beautiful book (Images of Joy by Jacqui Grace) and listen at the same time.

In the hall of residence of my student days a small Christian Union group used to begin every meeting by singing the chorus, Turn your eyes upon Jesus. That is one way of focussing.

Looking back at how my life has changed over recent years is easier with my hand-written journal and my blog. Occasionally I notice that someone has viewed a blog post I had completely forgotten about. I read it myself and find that my life has moved on in some way from that point. For example, I used to update my journal every few days, trying to remember what had happened. Now I write about the previous day as part of my quiet time every morning. It is easier to remember from one day to the next. I had intended to make this more of a spiritual practice, but I find it very difficult to write my feelings down.

Perhaps that is something I should focus on. It isn’t that I am unable to do it, as I found out in a journaling workshop led by Tracy Williamson and Marilyn Baker on Zoom in September.

My regular readers will know that words fascinate me. My three words (2016, 2017 and 2021)  have a progression of shared letters – ReST – TRuST; TrUSt – FocUS.

Have you chosen a word to help keep you on track in 2021?

Whether or not, Happy New Year!

Two books I read in November 2020

This post includes reviews of two e-books, which are also available in other formats.

Songs for a Saviour’s Birth by William Philip

Book cover

I read Songs for a Saviour’s Birth as an ebook, which I received free from the publisher, IVP as a ‘thank you’ for completing a survey. I had great difficulty downloading it and finding an app, which could open it, so was not in the best frame of mind when I began reading it using the EPUB Reader app. It is a short book, with five chapters and a commendation. It is also available as a paperback.

As I continued reading I regained a sense of joy. The book is well-written and brings out the excitement of the story as told by Luke. William Philip is ideally qualified to write about the early chapters of Luke’s gospel – he is a physician turned pastor, whereas Luke was a physician who became an evangelist. The book is written in a way, which encourages believers and explains the story to those, who have not previously had a clear explanation of the story. This is an Advent book I found to be compulsive reading and therefore recommend. (Advent  this year is from Sunday 29 November and to Christmas Eve, 24 December, inclusive.)

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

Book cover

The first book I read this year was Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland. When I found another of her books on BorrowBox, I selected it (not having been put off by some strong language in the other book). The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae :Ailsa Rae survived now she needs to learn to live… is set in Edinburgh, a city I visited for a day in 2018. (Coincidentally 2018 was part of the timeline for The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae.)

I could relate to the description of the confusing railway station and some of the other places mentioned. The story of someone, who needed a heart transplant is told as a blog, second-person narrative and email correspondence. There is sadness and humour. The experience of the protagonist seems authentic. (Among my friends and acquaintances there are at least two recipients of vital organs.) I really enjoyed this book, which I read in a few days. It was written before the opt-out legislation for organ donation was introduced in England. In Scotland the law is not changing until 2021. https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/uk-laws/

What I read in June 2020 (Part 2)

There are two book reviews in this post.

I won a paperback copy of Breaking the Mould: Learning to thrive as a Ministry Mum by Jules Middleton from the publisher SPCK* on Twitter . I was excited about winning it as I have been following Jules Middleton on social media (including her blog Apples of Gold) since we both reviewed Bible to go! for the Big Bible Project.

Both sentences in Kate Bottley’s endorsement: ‘Will make you laugh and cry along with her. Not just for ministry mums.’ are true. The target readership is women thinking of becoming ministers in any Christian denomination, those training or serving especially mothers, mothers-to-be and those hoping to have a family. Much of the content is also applicable to lay people. Middleton uses innovative analogies to make her points.

Other ministry mums have contributed their own stories to the book, which has an introduction by Sharon Prentis. Some of the contributors were familiar to me from Twitter. They have enhanced the book explaining, for example, how a physical disability or mental health condition is not a barrier to serving in the Church.

I found the explanation of the context and background to the passage about the perfect wife in Proverbs 31:10-31 particularly helpful.

Surprisingly, when I had finished reading it hubby picked it up and is finding it very interesting and readable, proving the point that this is a book which is attractive to a wide readership.

Highly recommended!

The second book was To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf which I read as an e-book from BorrowBox. I had not read any of Virginia Woolf’s writing previously. I did not find the story particularly gripping. It was told in an unusual way, concentrating on the thoughts and feelings of the characters as much if not more than the action. I didn’t find a contents list or a way to flip back to earlier parts of the story, but that might be due to my unfamiliarity with the BorrowBox app.

The first part of the book was a description of life in a large household over about a day. The chapter numbers began again at 1 with a jump forward in time. Some of the insights into character and motivation were interesting, but I won’t be rushing to read everything Woolf wrote. The story was followed by a biography of Woolf, which I might have liked to read first. In a printed book that would have been easy! It took me a long time to finish reading it.

I have been unable to find the cover image used on BorrowBox. It was an edition published by A Word to the Wise. This link is interesting.

My other book reviews may be found from the links  Authors A to M and Authors N to Z.

* not IVP (UK) as I originally stated.